Interview: Ash and Chess

– Antonella Kinder

Inside the Mad Girl Crush Interviews, we take a moment to explore the minds of creative, kick-ass women pursuing their passions.

Ashley Molesso and Chessie Needham are the creative couple behind NYC’s sugar and spice stationary brand, Ash + Chess.

Like any self respecting small business starter will tell you, chasing your dreams and starting your own business takes more power than puff – and sometimes it takes finding the right woman to power up and buckle down with.

Read on for how Ash + Chess came to be, where to turn when you’re in a creative rut, and more.

ash + chess roses are red card

MGM: How did you get into graphic design?

Ash: I always wanted to do my own thing at some point after college and decided that the thing would be starting a stationery company.

It was very slow at first. I tried selling poorly reproduced cards on Etsy (copied at Staples by yours truly) and then to friends and family. I didn’t really know what I was doing–I had no clue what wholesale even was at this point. And then I met Chess on the internet (on a dating app called Her– its like tinder but for lesbians LOL) and I brought her to walk the floor at NSS and shared my dreams of becoming the next Rifle Paper Co. + The rest is history!

I quit my job shortly after (it was seriously the lamest job ever designing plush blankets and doing production…it sucked) and started freelancing part time so I could have more time to spend on creating our very first greeting card line. I taught Chess how to use Illustrator and we were able to design super sweet cards together! In May 2017, we officially debuted our company at NSS and we totally made our money back that we spent on the show plus profit and we gained so many retailers. Exhibiting at the trade show was like the real point when we realized this is actually happening. That this is turning into a real job now.

ash + chess product shots

MGM: What does success look like to you?

Ash + Chess: An all expense paid trip to Disneyland (way better than Disneyworld btw). And making people’s hearts happy when they see our cute art. I hate how so many ugly things are mass produced. I only want to spread happiness and smiles and rainbows with our lovingly-designed products.

MGM: What do you admire about other women in the business of creating? Why?

Ash: I admire the drive that women have when it comes to the creative industry. Seeing other women creating beautiful things out of nothing is just so lovely and inspiring. There are so many creative women out there and I love that, and they are only growing especially in this time and age. More and more women are stepping out there and doing what they love, whether it be writing a novel, opening a store, selling their art, etc… Women get shit done! Together, we are changing this man’s world that we live in into a woman’s world.

ash + chess feminist af card

MGM: What do you turn to when you need inspiration or when you’re in a creative rut?

Ash: Pinterest is my number one everything (besides Chess of course LOL).  Seeing other people’s stuff mixed all together cohesively really helps get my brain working when I need to be inspired. I love that I can sort all of the images and art that inspires me into separate boards. I can literally go for hours at making boards for pink things, retro poster art, typography, trade show booth ideas, everything really. Obsessed with it. the ash + chess pinterest page where i put my absolute fave things that inspire me for designing new things

MGM: What advice do you have for other women or what advice do you wish you could have given yourself 5-10 years ago?

Ash: It is so important to surround yourself with good people. Don’t let anyone say that you can’t do it or that your dreams seem unattainable. Fuck them. You are the one who is going to live your dreams, not them!

Chess: My advice would just be to go for it. If you have something you’re passionate about, just go ahead and do it. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a dumb idea, or nobody else will care, or no one will like it – if you’re passionate, then your passion will take you there. Businesses can be expensive to start and obviously can be a huge risk, but if it’s something you REALLY want, you probably won’t be happy until you have it.

ash + chess picture

ash + chess instagram pg



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